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Center Stage




Excerpted from
God's Leading Lady
By Bishop T. D. Jakes

LITTLE GIRLS LOVE to play dress-up. They put on their momma's skirt and hat, earrings and makeup, and prance in front of the mirror pretending to he all grown up. They stare at their reflections, trying to look older, prettier, just like their favorite pop star. Their make-believe games are fun and fantasy-filled One day they may be a recording diva on a sound stage: the next, they may be president of the United States.

This playacting is not limited to little girls As anyone who has been around teenagers knows, adolescents spend countless hours in front of the mirror, making sure they have the right clothes, the right makeup, the right look of the day. People magazine and MTV provide guidelines and role models and fashion do's and don'ts. But this is okay. As we're growing up and developing into adults, all of us, women and men alike, try on different "clothes" and model ourselves after those we admire. There's nothing wrong with this modeling during our adolescence. Girls and boys must experiment and discover what works for them and who they really are.

However, many women become mired in the quicksand of other women's images, sinking slowly, gradually, year after year, further and further away from their true selves The women they model themselves alter may be wonderful, successful, godly ladies-their mothers, their older sisters, a teacher or a coach, a boss. They may try to emulate the charismatic charm and style of a movie star, gospel singer, talk-show host, or world-class athlete. And although it's wise to use others' admirable qualities as inspiration, problems occur when they try to force themselves into an image that doesn't fit who they really are They mold themselves into the good girl, the wonder woman, (he Christian martyr-mother-saint, and while they may appear to be successful and to have it all together, inside of them is a growing sense of dissatisfaction and dishonesty. It's like trying to squeeze into the wrong size shoes. You can cram your feet into them, and you might look good for a while, but sooner or later your toes start to cramp, your bunions ache, and blisters form on the back of your heels.

What's terribly unfortunate is that then these women suffer in silence, walking around in shoes that don't fit, afraid to remove them. They fear being branded an impostor or worry that their true selves won't live up to the image they've been portraying. Some women stay behind a mask of what their families and pop culture dictate as successful and beautiful, because the mask acts as a shield, protecting them from anyone getting too close. They have experienced so much hardship and anguish in life, and the mask is a defense, a facade that doesn't reveal their vulnerability, their weakness, or the pain churning within their souls. Saddest of all are the women who remain behind their masks because they've long forgotten their true selves. They have spent so much lime and energy creating and maintaining the illusion of who they are supposed to be, that they've lost sight of who they really are. They've suffocated their extraordinary' personality and buried their unique beauty. They worry that if they step out from behind their mask, they won't know who else to be

Well, I say to all these women-I say to all of you reading this book-the lime has come to drop the mask! Stop doing the impersonations and lake your mark at center stage, fulfilling the role you were born to play. Do not forfeit who you are in pursuit of playing a role that was not designed for you. Be true to your character and boldly claim your place in the world!

I know it takes courage to drop the mask. Suppose you are rejected? Suppose people laugh at you? False friends may be appalled by your transformation, because when you change your role, they might be forced to change their own. Well-meaning family members may be concerned-after all, why should you change? You were everything they thought you should be. But you can't maintain the status quo at the expense of your destiny. You'll be shortchanging yourself and everyone in your life if you don't fulfill the promise of who you are meant to be. Think of all the potential you are squashing by not allowing yourself or the Creator to display the masterpiece of who you are.

My goal here is not just to inspire you but to admonish you that it is essential that you succeed in being you! You were created with a Divine purpose, and it is our Lord's desire to see you live up to the image He created for you So, today we drop the mask by developing our own opinion, style, and personality'. We drop the mask by developing the courage-and it can be developed-to risk being different from those who have influenced us. Complementing- not duplicating-the women who influenced them catapults great women into leading ladies. For you see, leading ladies do not imitate, they create. Have you discovered the creative powers, forces, and instincts that exist inside you? These are the energies that will build, equip, and empower you for your destined end. Today, let's begin the challenging task of dropping our masks and discovering the power within.

Sister, our Lord has sacrificed too much and blessed you too far to allow you to hide behind a mask. He delights in shattering those false masks and structuring the delicate shards into an intricate, rainbow-hued mosaic of the daughter He has formed in His own image. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). Drop the mask and reveal the workmanship of the Master.



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